Sunday of swing

31st Annual Michelob Women In Jazz Festival

By Benjamin Smith

Photo: The Petra Van Nuis Quartet headlines the Women in Jazz Festival on Sunday, June 23; [l to r] guitarist Andy Brown, vocalist Petra Van Nuis

1982 was an interesting year for music. Ozzy Osbourne bit the head off a bat, The Who held a formal “farewell” tour, Public Enemy formed and Michael Jackson released Thriller. Locally, that year saw the launch of Dayton’s Women In Jazz Festival. Established by singer Debbie Keeton – who now heads the Debbie Keeton Jazz Quartet out of Florida – and the Dayton Daily News’ Jim Nichols, this free event remains an annual high water mark for Gem City entertainment and culture. Hometown musician and talent buyer Martin Romie has helped oversee and organize Women In Jazz since 2005, and talked with the Dayton City Paper about the festival’s past and present.

This year’s festival features seven acts. Are all of them, in fact, from Dayton?

All of this year’s performers are Dayton-based, with the exception of the headliner, the Petra van Nuis Quartet. [Petra is originally from Cincinnati, and now hails from Chicago.] Dayton has a very vibrant jazz scene with many fine players. The task remains to present to our festival patrons … a fresh, “changing faces” festival from year to year. –Marty Romie

How would you describe the Petra van Nuis Quartet?

Petra is pretty active on the jazz scene. She’s got a nice voice and her band should provide a high-energy act. What I like about Petra and her band is that they won’t play just a “standards” set. It will be a good mix of original and classic stuff; a nice blend of traditional and new jazz. Also, her guitar player [Petra’s husband, Andy Brown] is phenomenal. -MR

What are you most excited about for  this year’s festival?

As with every year … spending a day in the park with other live music fans, and taking in the best of what these artists have to offer. -MR

Let’s back up a bit. How exactly did you first get involved with Women In Jazz?

My background and interests lie in performing and supporting live music, especially on a local and regional level. It can be more personable and much more rewarding. I had met Jim Nichols in the 1990’s, performing at the Dayton Blues Festivals, and became more acquainted with him when I worked for the Trolley Stop as their talent buyer, handling their weekly music entertainment and special events. This brought about the offer of me succeeding Jim. -MR

What’s the hardest part about organizing an event like this?

For me, doing interviews (laughs). Just kidding. It’s all just a cakewalk for me. There is much more work being done to organize the event by others with the city than what I contribute. -MR

Finally, I have to admit that, as much as I like jazz, I have never attended the Women In Jazz Festival before. What are three reasons people like me should attend this year?

Reason 1: spend a day with the family and friends in a beautiful downtown Dayton park. Reason 2: experience some of the very best musical talent the Miami Valley and beyond has to offer. Reason 3: FREE ADMISSION … courtesy of the City of Dayton Department of Recreation & Youth Services and the Downtown Dayton Partnership. This could very easily be a $20-$25 ticket in any other city. -MR

The 31st Annual Michelob Women In Jazz Festival will take place on Sunday, June 23, at Dave Hall Plaza, located at Fourth and Jefferson Streets. Admission is free. Food and merchandise vendors will be present. Lawn chairs and blankets are welcome; alcoholic beverages and pets are not permitted. The schedule of performances for this year’s festival is as follows: 1 p.m.: Hott Number; 2 p.m.: Valeria Lark; 3 p.m.: Tony’s Hotel; 4 p.m.: Heidi Reynolds & Jazz Karma; 5 p.m.: Special Guest Band; 6 p.m.: Jazz Central Band featuring The Ladies of Jazz Central; 7 p.m.: Petra van Nuis Quartet featuring guitarist Andy Brown. For more information, call 937.333.8400.

A Few Words With Heidi Reynolds

Dayton jazz vocalist Heidi Reynolds has been performing with Cincinnati’s Jazz Karma – a quartet consisting of David Lloyd (bass), Pat Kelly (keyboards), Ron Enyard (drums) and Sandy Suskind (flute and saxophone) – since July of 2010. This Miami Valley supergroup is scheduled to perform at the 31st Annual Women In Jazz Festival at 4 p.m.

Tell us a little more about Jazz Karma.

They have been the house jam band at Cincinnati’s Blue Wisp Jazz Club. They’re all accomplished musicians; some of them have been playing for over 40 years. Since we like to jam, we play jazz/pop standards from the 1930’s to the 1960’s, such as “What Is This Thing Called Love?” and “Invitation.” We like to be upbeat, and I like to sing songs that make me happy … songs I have been listening to since I was a kid, from albums my Mom owned: Judy Garland, Billie Holiday, Peggy Lee, Vikki Carr, etc. – Heidi Reynolds

I have to ask: what exactly is “jazz karma?”

(Laughs) Karma is everything in life that contributes to your soul’s experience. And jazz has always been one of the biggest parts of my soul’s experience. I am truly the happiest when I am singing jazz. I’m in the moment, not thinking about the past or the future. -HR

Your father was a Dayton jazz musician, correct?

Yes. My father, Don Reynolds, played the saxophone, clarinet and flute for 30 years. And he stopped performing while he was at the top of his game. He taught me that, although we didn’t make a ton of money, we were both lucky to be musicians – and that I was lucky to do what I loved. -HR

I hear you were in the audience for the first Women In Jazz Festival.

I was! I remember going to it in 1982. I had moved up to Dayton from Atlanta right after college. I didn’t have a car, so I took a bus to the first festival. And I loved it! Jazz audiences are great. They’re intimate congregations of friendly people. -HR

Reach DCP freelance writer Benjamin Smith at


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